I’ve just read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz, for a second time. I was captured anew by a phrase in the book: we use love as currency. That is not a complimentary statement. And he wasn’t referring to humans in general. He was referring to church-going people in general. In one section he remarks how his experience of living in the woods for a month with “hippies” was more gratifying than any church community he experienced before. He says it wasn’t just that the “hippies” were cool; they accepted him as-is.
It reminded me of the moment I realized that Jesus accepted me as-is. I have tried to find words to describe what that moment felt like but have yet to identify any that do it justice. When one has the luxury and gift of realizing that we are accepted by God just as we are, something very deep inside comes to life. Such moments have the power to heal brokenness, to reach across canyons of loss, melt disappointment, smother fear, soften hearts, halt rebellions.
When it comes to being accepted as-is, I admit I feel like one of those guys that owns an oil-producing country: extravagantly wealthy, but in a different way. People as rebellious and stubborn as I have been should not have the privilege of swimming in this ocean of grace and acceptance. But I do, and it has changed everything.
All because Someone said: I accept you, as-is.
I certainly feel validated and valued at my church today but I haven’t always felt that in churches I’ve attended. More importantly, today, I wonder if people visiting my church or crossing my path have felt accepted as-is. I mean, I can be a judgmental little freak sometimes. You know… on my “less-than” days. Most days I’m virtually levitating in holiness (that’s sarcasm, folks; just a little embellishment for the sake of entertainment).
For reasons He has not fully shared, God gave me a heart for the spiritually wounded and broken – more so than for any other group of people. I feel a compassion for people that have been trampled by life, run-over by institutions, pushed aside by organizations, dismissed by the majority. It is a vast, messy, drama-inducing group. Sometimes shouting, sometimes whimpering, sometimes silent. But always hurting.
Look around. We are everywhere: immigrants, lesbians, addicts, impoverished, crippled, broken-hearted, prisoners, single-parents, hungry, sick, orphaned, divorced, lonely… a messy mass of endless need and suffering. This is the audience of the compassionate Jesus: the crowd that longs to hear the heart of God saying, “I accept you, as-is”.
I could mention travel bans, hold-the-fort immigration policy, keep-em-out mentality, close-the-border protectionism… but I won’t. All I will say is, I had an opinion about all of but my opinion was changed when I read this and realized I was wrong:
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34
My Father is not an exclusionary God; quite the opposite. He is the Persistent Inviter, the One Who Calls, the One Who Accepts As-Is. As a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, shouldn’t I do the same?